The only thing the same each day is that I wake up in the morning!
No day is identical, and for that reason the role of a building control surveyor is varied and rewarding.
I personally started life as a civil engineer working in that discipline for nearly 10 years. This was a second choice career as I'd intended to study architecture. But building control suits me, I think it's where I should be; I'm a building geek and love to see new design.
Now I work on a daily basis with architects and architectural technicians. Our approach at 3C Building Control, an LABC shared service of three local authorities in Cambridgeshire, is to play our part as a member of the project design team. This way we help facilitate solutions either in advance through pre-application advice or during schemes as issues arise. Doing this I feel like I'm being constructive and very much a part of that professional team.
Helping people every day
This level of cooperation reveals itself in all the things we do. Being a building control surveyor in a local authority setting means you're helping a variety of people each and every day - we're a public service after all. Good surveyors have a real knack for observation and problem solving. This coupled with a sound knowledge of the building regulations and you can help all sorts of projects attain good standards of construction.
The role of a building control surveyor is certainly about enforcing the building regulations and keeping people who use buildings safe, but in my experience this is best achieved through education and cooperation with the people actually undertaking the building work.
This way I try and help avoid difficult and expensive errors. This can occur at several stages of a project, either at pre-application, plan checking or during site inspections. Each opportunity adds great value to a project, and a quality inspection regime is the last chance to close the performance gap between design and implementation, helping ensure the client gets the building they envisaged. Consequently most days find me on site. Some projects take a matter of minutes to check a DPC (damp proof course) but others can be more complicated and take hours.
Varied roles result in job satisfaction
As my career has grown I've found myself providing CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to customers and architectural students, which I really enjoy. I also chair a national LABC working group and help coordinate the East Anglia region's LABC Building Excellence Awards. All these things help make my job interesting and diverse.
3C Building Control operates in rural and city locations. As I am based in the centre of Cambridge City I attend site on a push bike. It's the most convenient way to get to all the sites I need to visit in the day, avoids problems with traffic and parking, and it's great for me and the environment.
All building control offices work in slightly different ways, but we offer a responsive same day inspection service, so I tend to arrive in Cambridge early, plan check a new project and go to site late morning, returning to the office in the afternoon. I really like this balance of not being in the office all the time. You meet people all the time doing this, people with all sorts of different levels of understanding of construction; I therefore have to be friendly, adaptable and confident in what is correct.
And the projects we deal with vary a lot. On any day I could be looking at something as simple as replacement glazing, a new steel beam or a small domestic extension right through to one of several multi-million pound R&D (research and development) buildings or complex fire engineered commercial building.
Although on site I work on my own, I have an amazing group of colleagues who I can discuss design issues and problems with. There's great camaraderie in building control, our normal helpful nature extending to being there for each other.
When I left civil engineering I was told I would be bored working for a local authority. Now it's true I'm nearly always busy which means I don't have time to be bored, but it's also true that the industry evolves and changes on such a frequent basis that there's always something new to learn.
Raising building standards
This is particularly true now, our industry is in the spotlight and we're keen to continue to play our part in raising standards. The role of the building control surveyor is now more important than ever and new entries into this part of the construction industry are seeing this as an amazing opportunity to forge a satisfying, if demanding, career.
Hugely rewarding? Definitely.